Tying Problems? Practice is the Key to Patience by Clinton Anderson
Pawing the ground is a clear sign of impatience and frustration on the horse’s part. You’ve probably seen the horse that digs himself into a hole when left tied up. It’s kind of like a little kid rolling around on the ground at the shopping center because his mother won’t buy him candy. He’s spoiled and having a bit of a tantrum.
Initially, horses paw because they want or need something – they don’t want to stand tied or they want their grain faster! However, once a horse has been allowed to paw over a long period of time (and has been rewarded for his behavior), it often becomes an ingrained habit that no longer has any specific cause. For example, as soon as you tie him up, he immediately starts to paw before you can even turn and walk away from him.
A horse that paws when he’s left tied up does so because of a lack of training and patience. The best way to teach a horse to tie up well is to practice tying him up. I tie my horses for at least four hours a day, every day, and there are days that they get tied up all day as well. It doesn’t matter if they’re good, bad or indifferent, they all get tied up.
Oftentimes, a horse that paws when tied up does so because he knows he’s going to get attention from you. What usually happens is the horse paws, the owner comes out to stop him, or even untie him, and the horse begins to think to himself that he’s controlling their actions and getting them to come to him. Think of your horse like a little kid throwing a fit for attention. Every time he’s rewarded for his behavior, the problem just gets worse. That’s why it’s best to just ignore him when he paws and teach him to stand tied with patience.
Tying a horse up for long periods of time accomplishes many important things in your training. I have a little saying, “End each training session by tying your horse up to the ‘Tree or Post of Knowledge.’” When you tie your horse up after a training session, it teaches him not only respect and patience, but it also gives him a chance to think about and absorb what you have just taught him.
The very last thing you want to do after a training session is get off your horse, take him back to the barn, unsaddle him, hose him off and put him in his stall to eat. This puts his focus more on getting back to the barn and eating than on thinking about his job. If you get into the habit of tying your horse up for two to three hours after you ride him, he won’t be in such a hurry to get back to the barn.
Some people will read that and think that I’m being cruel to the horse. But I have to ask, “What’s the difference between a horse standing still in a stall or a horse standing tied up? The difference to me is that if he’s standing tied, he could be thinking about you and what you’ve just taught him, but I guarantee you that in the stall he’s not thinking about you at all.
Practice = Patience
What happens to most owners who have horses that paw when tied is that they only tie their horses for 10 minutes a day. When they do tie the horse up, he thinks it’s the worst thing in the world and throws a fit. If you want your horse to tie well, you have to practice and teach him patience. If you practice it every day, it just becomes a natural part of your horse’s routine. It’s no different than anything else you teach him.
Ropers are notorious for having horses that instantly fall asleep when they tie them up because when they go to a roping, they leave the horses tied up to the fence all day long. If you go to a roping you’ll see a hundred horses standing alongside the fence with hind legs cocked, heads lowered and eyes shut sleeping. Why? Because their owners have taught them to stand still and relax while they are tied up. Those horses know that they’re going to be on that fence for a long time. You want your horse to develop the same mentality so that when you tie him up, he immediately relaxes.
Author note: Clinton Anderson is a clinician, horse trainer and competitor. He’s dedicated his life to helping others realize their horsemanship dreams. Learn more about the Downunder Horsemanship Method at www.downunderhorsemanship.com.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 10
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